We haven't had official confirmation yet, but we all know it is coming. Purdue running back D.J. Knox crumpled to the turf Saturday with a non-contact knee injury during the third quarter of the spring game. He had rushed for 58 yards and it looked like he and Markell Jones were going to form a solid duo in the backfield. As you can see from the video, it does not look good:
Here are some of the highlights from today's @BoilerFootball spring game. September can't get here soon enough! https://t.co/hnjqW53l52— Purdue Athletics (@PurdueSports) April 16, 2016
Knox was Purdue's second leading rusher last season with 409 yards and two scores, plus an additional 189 yards on 26 receptions. With him out for the year with a likely torn ACL it is a big loss, but not an overwhelming one. We were lucky in that Purdue has several other running backs that can help step in and fill the void.
Markell Jones - Last year Knox was often the starter, but Jones was better with 875 yards and 10 touchdowns as well as 239 receiving yards on 34 catches and another TD. The bar is already set at a 1,000 yard season for Markell. Because of his excellent freshman season Jones has a chance to have a very special, record breaking career if he stays healthy. It sucks losing Knox, but losing Jones would be a catastrophe.
David Yancey - Yancey seemed to be the de facto third string back last season. Even then, he had just five carries for 13 yards and two receptions for 11 yards. He has experience as a redshirt junior and has been around for a while. His size is similar to Jones, but he does not have the explosiveness.
Keyante Green - Personally, I am shocked that he has not transferred. The former four-star recruit had 199 yards on 27 carries and 11 receiving yards in 2014, but ended up in Hazell's doghouse last year and didn't play a down. Green is more of a bruiser than a speed back, but thanks to a 53 yard run at Illinois he has a nice 7.4 yards per carry average. Purdue is not blessed with a ridiculous amount of talent. If Green is indeed a 4-star we need to use him.
Richie Worship - Worship is a grown-assed man playing running back, and the Boilers had some very interesting looks for him on Saturday. At 6'1" 252 pounds he is by far Purdue's biggest back. In addition to lining up in the backfield he shifted out as a TE on some plays. He could be a good lead blocker as well. He is coming off of his redshirt year and should be a contributor in a variety of ways.
Tario Fuller - Fuller had just one carry for a single yard in the spring game, but the redshirt freshman has a little promise. He is likely behind the four guys listed above him here, however.
Keith Byars II - The son of the multi-year NFL veteran has been banged up throughout his Purdue career, but this is his fourth season in the program. He has yet to notch a single carry, but I believe injuries have limited his availability. He is Purdue's smallest scholarship running back and I really don't know much about his capabilities. Even his HS accomplishments were a modest 655 yards and 9 TDs in his senior season and 484 yards and 7 TDs as a junior.
Brian Lankford-Johnson - Purdue does have a true freshman RB coming in this fall. The product from Palm Bay, Florida had a big year last year with 1,814 yards and 22 scores. He also had offers from Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, and Central Florida, while Miami, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Indiana were at least showing interest. He committed just before signing day and Purdue got him despite a last minute visit to Louisville. He has a lot of speed, so I could see him jumping ahead of Byars and Fuller. He might even pass Yancey. Does he avoid a redshirt?
So Purdue clearly has some options here. We should be thankful that Jones is still here and healthy, as we're talking about replacing his backup, not Jones himself. If I had to predict, I would say Yancey and Green get the first crack with Worship playing more of a fullback/H-back type of role. I do really like Lankford-Johnson and what he has to offer too. He brings a speed and big play element that might get him on the field immediately.